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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nervous ABQ Judges Await FBI Court Construction Probe, Plus: Big Bill's New Hampshire Hornets Nest, And: My Tuesday Bottom Lines 

It's one big statewide cattle call for New Mexico politicos today as contenders for 70 state House seats make their intentions known by filing their declarations of candidacy. No question that a lot of incumbents are nervous, not quite sure if they will draw primary opposition. But there is another group of hopefuls who will also file today who have even more butterflies flapping in their stomachs. They are the 16 judges on ABQ's Metropolitan Court. Why? The answer is all over the front pages announcing that the FBI has launched a far-flung probe into the construction of the new metro court, district court and detention center buildings. Were bribes taken? Were contracts inflated? Were commissions illegally boosted? You know, all the stuff we became overly familiar with during the recent state Treasurer scandal.

It's fair to point out that no metro judges, according to the news reports, have been mentioned in connection with the probe.

All 16 metro judges face voters this November, a dozen of them in those obscure "retention" elections. The remainder are in contested elections. Incumbent metro judges are up for retention every four years. If they do not get 57% of the voters agreeing to retain them they are outta there. (That rarely happens.)

Chief Metro Court Judge Judy Nakamura has been racing to stay ahead of the news curve, announcing that metro has been fully cooperating with the Feds. But the money line in her recent statement was that no one employed at the court "in the last two years" is a target of the investigation. At least not to her knowledge. But what about employees there 24 months ago? Apparently that's another story. If it turns out to be a sour one, you wonder if voters will be stirred up enough to shower their wrath on the sitting judges, justified or not.

Then again, the Legislature failed to pass any significant reform in the wake of the Treasurer scandal, and the notorious theft from the ABQ police department's evidence room of some $60,000 in cash, (probably more, according to one high-ranking lawman) went unprosecuted. With that record, maybe the judges are nervous over nothing.

NEW HAMPSHIRE HORNETS NEST

They say all politics is local and that again proved true when Big Bill hit the New Hampshire presidential campaign trail for a second time this past weekend. The Guv apparently stepped on a hornets nest when he spoke of a New Hampshire congressional primary race featuring several competing Dems. It prompted this e-mail to your blog from the Granite State congressional campaign of State Rep. Peter Sullivan:

"Richardson managed to anger a large group of New Hampshire Democratic activists during his trip. Speaking at the Manchester Democratic Committee's St. Patrick's Day breakfast, Richardson fawned over State Rep. Jim Craig, calling him "the next congressman."

What Richardson didn't seem to realize is that Craig faces three other major opponents in the September primary.

Supporters of State Rep. Peter Sullivan, as well as those of Rochester Democratic Chairwoman Carol Shea Porter and Rye school committeeman Gary Dodds, are furious that Richardson would choose to meddle in a contested race with the primary still six months away," said the e-mail.

Sullivan and the others are seeking the right to face off with GOP Congressman Jeb Bradley. As for Big Bill, he learned fast that Alligators are everywhere in NM. Now he's finding out that they get bigger as you go up the political food chain.

TUESDAY BOTTOM LINES

The candidates who file for state House seats in Bernalillo county today will be posted on the Web by county clerk Mary Herrera starting after 5 p.m. A tip of the hat to her for the wise Web use....Campaign workers for Santa Fe's Letitia Montoya, like Herrera, a Dem candidate for secretary of state, say she will submit additional petition signatures to get on the June ballot. Montoya failed to get the required 20 percent of the vote at Saturday's preprimary convention....One of the favorite names floating around for the New Mexico NFL football team that Big Bill hopes to someday attract to our Enchanted Land? "The New Mexico Kickbackers." Why am I not surprised?

Thanks for the company. See you soon.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2006
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